Bankruptcy reforms ‘will spur Saudi Arabian investment’

Bankruptcy regulations in line with global standards are a major step in overhauling the Saudi economy, analysts say. (Shutterstock)
Updated 01 August 2018
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Bankruptcy reforms ‘will spur Saudi Arabian investment’

  • Saudi Arabia will introduce its first comprehensive bankruptcy law on Aug. 18
  • The new rules have been drawn up to offer protection to creditors

LONDON: Saudi Arabia will introduce its first comprehensive bankruptcy law on Aug. 18 in a move designed to encourage foreign and domestic investment in private business, experts say.
The move is also seen as providing a boost for competitiveness and jobs, and to help pave the way for the transfer of knowledge and skills as part of a drive to modernize the economy.
Based on internationally recognized insolvency standards, the new rules have been drawn up to offer protection to creditors such as banks, as well as stricken companies that seek to wind up their affairs in an orderly manner, thereby shielding themselves from arbitrary seizure of their assets.
“The new regulations will offer lenders, firms and their executives peace of mind and spur overseas investment in the private sector,” said Dario Najm, an associate in the corporate and M&A practice at BSA Ahmad Bin Hezeem & Associates LLP in Riyadh.
In an interview with Arab News, he said that until now there had been little in the way of “procedural clarity” in the way bankruptcies have been handled in KSA. But this was vital to generate confidence and “bring in foreign direct investment that will help to expand the private sector in line with Vision 2030, and refashion the economy.”
Najm also indicated that many investors were waiting for the new laws to come into force before making KSA investment decisions.
The laws would encourage the creation of new enterprises and medium-sized businesses, by Gulf and overseas entrepreneurs, creating employment for Saudi nationals, Najm said. It would generate confidence that a formal system was in place to liquidate companies that had run into trouble, or allow them time to recover by arranging a debt-repayment schedule.
Jason Tuvey, Middle East economist at Capital Economics, told Arab News that “there is a good chance these latest developments will help to attract more foreign investment, and aid the wider economy in terms of knowledge transfer, which in turn could lead to stronger productivity growth.”
He said that the law would encourage risk-takers to invest capital in new businesses that will help take the country away from its dependency on oil.
“It allows creditors and debtors to enter into agreements to schedule the payment of debts, a measure that will enable indebted corporations to achieve a stable financial status.”
Confirmation that the new bankruptcy law would be implemented in five weeks came from a Saudi Ministry of Commerce and Investment official during a workshop.
Speakers said that the bankruptcy law served an Islamic purpose, which was the preservation of money, and was to be applied according to the best international practices for addressing financial issues, Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper reported.
Majed Al-Rasheed, secretary-general of the Bankruptcy Commission at the Ministry of Commerce and Investment, was quoted as saying the law provided “a set of tools and solutions that regulate the value of the debtor’s assets to be sold at the highest possible price in a short period of time, and this establishes trust in the credit market.”
Maher Saeed, director of the bankruptcy law project, said that the new laws — first outlined in February — included seven chapters for bankruptcy procedures.
The idea was to take into account the circumstances of defaulters and small debtors, providing them with special procedures.
“The law will bolster Saudi national choices emphasized in Vision 2030, which aim to establish a prosperous economy, facilitate business, help investors overcome financial obstacles, and empower debtors,” he said.


World’s biggest sovereign fund worried about trade wars

Updated 21 August 2018
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World’s biggest sovereign fund worried about trade wars

  • The fund posted a positive return of 1.8 percent, or 167 billion kroner ($19.8 billion), in the second quarter
  • Markets are worried about a trade dispute between the United States and China

OSLO: The managers of Norway’s sovereign wealth fund, the world’s biggest, expressed concern Tuesday about global trade tensions, which could heavily impact its value.
The fund posted a positive return of 1.8 percent, or 167 billion kroner ($19.8 billion), in the second quarter, helping erase a loss of 171 billion kroner in January-March that was attributed to a volatile stock market.
The Government Pension Fund Global, which saw its total value swell to 8.33 trillion kroner by the end of June, manages the country’s oil revenues in order to finance Norway’s generous welfare state when its oil and gas wells run dry.
But Norway’s central bank, which runs the fund, said geopolitical and trade tensions presented a risk.
“It’s fair to say that increased trade barriers or even trade wars will not be beneficial for the fund as a long-term global investor,” Trond Grande, the deputy chief of Norges Bank Investment Management, told reporters.
Markets are worried about a trade dispute between the United States and China. Accusing Beijing of unfair competition, the US administration is considering slapping a new round of levies worth $200 billion on Chinese goods.
Talks between the two slated for Wednesday and Thursday aimed at resolving the dispute have however eased concerns somewhat.
Following US-Turkey tensions that sent the Turkish lira and the Istanbul stock market tumbling, the Norwegian fund said its assets there were worth less than the 23 billion kroner they were at the beginning of the year.
“We’ve seen the market rise for a long time, that there are different political and geopolitical events in the world that can affect the market, and we have to be prepared for the fact that (the value of) the fund can go down a lot,” Grande concluded.
The fund’s strong second quarter was attributed primarily to its share portfolio, which accounts for 66.8 percent of its investments and which rose by 2.7 percent.
Real estate holdings, which account for 2.6 percent of its holdings, rose by 1.9 percent, while bond investments, which represent 30.6 percent, remained flat.
Faced with falling oil revenues in recent years, the Norwegian government has been tapping the fund to finance public spending since 2015. But with oil prices recovering, the fund registered its first inflow in three years in June.